Master of Divinity Degree (MDiv)


Program Description

Maitripa College offers a robust, 72 credit minimum, three-to-four year Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree under the direction of Yangsi Rinpoche. The MDiv is a professional degree focused on a Buddhist approach to cultivating intellectual, spiritual, and professional skills in order to work as an agent of positive change in the world. Scholastic and contemplative training forms a stable foundation for skillfully enacting culturally- relevant wisdom and compassion. Candidates are prepared for a life of service and leadership in the non-profit sector and traditional chaplaincy roles within Buddhist, interfaith, or secular institutions and communities.

At the core of the degree curriculum are the three pillars of higher education at Maitripa – Scholarship, Meditation, and Community Service. The Master of Divinity degree is designed for students seeking a practical, in-depth, and critical understanding of Buddhist thought, with a strong emphasis on real-life application, both internally and in service to the community. The program couples meditative training and active service in community partnerships with a core philosophical curriculum designed to ground the student in Buddhist principles, logic, philosophical arguments, meditative techniques, and methodologies of the academic study of religion. The synthesis of this training and study informs personal and professional applications of Buddhist orientations to concepts of self and other, the wish to alleviate suffering, and interdependence at local and global levels.

In addition, the MDiv degree attends to the personal, scholarly, and pastoral competencies required for chaplaincy by offering a breadth of learning opportunities in canonical language and literature, religious history, pastoral care and counseling, and comparative religion. Particular depth will be cultivated in areas of philosophy, meditation practices and methods, Buddhist psychology, ritual and liturgy, spiritual formation, leadership and administration, and Engaged Buddhism.

Students may elect to complete a concentration in either Canonical Languages and Literature or Spiritual Formation. The concentration in Canonical Languages and Literature trains students in Classical Tibetan from beginning to advanced levels, with both Tibetan and Western scholars, and includes courses with close readings of texts in translation. The Spiritual Formation concentration enables students to devote considerable focus to mentored meditation and retreat.

The MDiv degree has traditionally been an important credential for ministry as well as for employment as a chaplain in hospitals, hospice, prisons, the armed forces, and some schools or institutions. Students may qualify to apply to pursue National Board Certification as chaplains after graduation.

The program may be completed as a full- or part-time student. Full-time students must take a minimum of 7 credits per semester and are eligible for scholarship funds.

Degree Concentrations

Students in the MDiv and MA degree programs may elect concentrations in either Canonical Languages and Literature or Spiritual Formation as a way of identifying areas of particular depth and training.

The concentration in Canonical Languages and Literature requires a minimum of four semesters of classical Tibetan coursework and four credit hours of coursework in a close reading of a Buddhist text in translation. Courses which satisfy the literature requirement will be indicated in the course catalog. Other canonical languages, such as Sanskrit or Chinese, also satisfy the language requirement when available.

Maitripa College is committed to training students in Classical Tibetan from beginning to advanced levels – from learning the alphabet to producing translations. Our mission and vision to develop an accredited Buddhist University offering higher education guided by the principles of the Buddhadharma require that we also contribute to the preservation of Tibet’s rich textual traditions and increase their accessibility in the West. By learning to read and translate Tibetan, Maitripa students have the opportunity to receive the wisdom of these teachings directly in their original language, study with western and Tibetan linguists, learn to recite prayers and practices in Tibetan, and take advantage of the rare opportunity to read classic texts with a Geshe Lharampa and lineage holder, Yangsi Rinpoche. This is also exceptional preparation for pursuing doctoral studies and research in any area of Tibetan studies. Please see Classical Tibetan Language Studies at Maitripa College for more information.

The concentration in Spiritual Formation enables students to devote considerable focus to mentored meditation, both in the classroom and during structured retreat opportunities. Meditation and ritual practices that fulfill the minimum credits must demonstrate educational efficacy through mentorship, educational goals, and evaluation. Three meditation (MDT) elective courses (in addition to the minimum degree requirements for the MA or MDiv) must be taken, in which the course is designed to instruct students in practices for specific educational goals, including the cultivation of spiritual qualities or skills, gaining insight into philosophic concepts, or learning content. A minimum of one additional credit hour (100 hours of mentored meditation) must be earned through participation in retreat. Retreats may include on-site or residential Maitripa-sponsored retreats and, where approved and in consultation with Yangsi Rinpoche, may also include structured and supervised retreats to be completed by the student privately. In some cases, and with sufficient documentation, students may petition for limited recognition of retreats and practices completed in other lineages or at other centers.

Master of Divinity Learning Outcomes

Philosophy & Theology

Students will have a sophisticated understanding of the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, the issues at stake for Buddhist philosophers, and the approaches Tibetan and Western scholars take toward understanding this body of work. Students will be familiar with the history, authors, and texts significant in the development of Buddhist thought in India and Tibet.

Students will have an understanding of the doctrines of Buddhist thought as they are practiced in historical and contemporary Buddhist contexts, and in the evolving western traditions. They will demonstrate knowledge of the interaction of religious/spiritual experience and culture as it has played out historically in Buddhism, and gain facility with applying and integrating Buddhist resources within our multicultural society. They will be able to articulate a personal theology and have the ability to draw on Buddhist perspectives to nurture and support the development of a spiritual worldview (whatever it may be) in others with equanimity and respect.


Students will have solid awareness and fluency in the terminology of the vast corpus of techniques and practices of Buddhist meditation. Students will be able to identify appropriate meditation practices to combat specific psychological problems and apply them to their own minds. They will be able to communicate these techniques to others appropriately in both secular and religious contexts. They will be able to live from an understanding of self-informed by introspection, and an understanding of others as informed by wisdom and compassion.

Community Service

Students will be able to assess community needs, develop strategies for meeting those needs, and actively work to bring concrete benefit to their communities through the practice of service in their communities. They will be able to integrate Buddhist concepts of compassion, patience, joyous effort, and so forth into their work, and communicate these concepts to others as strategies for service. Students will have the ability to draw on Buddhist perspectives to engage with their communities, identify and enhance its strengths, and become leaders and agents of positive change in our world.


Students will gain depth in Buddhist studies and practice and be able to use the tradition as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and spiritual rejuvenation for their work in the world. Students will demonstrate competencies in a breadth of complementary areas according to their educational and professional goals. Those students planning to pursue certification as chaplains, and exemplifying the requisite personal qualities and professional skills, will be prepared for Ordination and Endorsement while a student, and for Clinical Pastoral Education and completion of the certification process after graduation.

MDiv students need not identify as Buddhist but must have a willingness to commit to study and practice Buddhism from an appreciation for the tradition as a source of wisdom and spiritual development and out of which they will be able to serve in the world.

Progress to Graduation: Maitripa College Masters of Divinity (72): Required & Recommended Courses

PHILOSOPHY PILLAR: minimum 12 credits, includes:

  • Introduction to Buddhist Thought
  • Foundations of Buddhist Thought: The Medium and Great Scope
  • Madhyamaka Philosophy: Where is the Middle Way?
  • Madhayamaka Philosophy: A Dose of Emptiness
  • Vajrayana Philosophy
  • Mindfulness & Compassion
  • The Good Heart
  • Tantric Ritual and Ethics (permission required)

MEDITATION PILLAR: minimum 10 credits, includes:

  • Introduction to Buddhist Meditation
  • Techniques of Buddhist Meditation: The Medium and Great Scope
  • Techniques of Meditation: Madhyamaka
  • Madhyamaka Meditation: Preparation for Vajrayana
  • Vajrayana Meditation
  • Vajrayana Meditation II (permission required)
  • Lam Rim Retreat: The Small Scope
  • Lam Rim Retreat: The Medium Scope
  • Lam Rim Retreat: The Great Scope
  • Lam Rim Retreat: The Great Scope II

SERVICE PILLAR: minimum 16 credits, may include:

  • Who We Are & Who We Serve: Personal Theology & Foundations of Engagement
  • Compassionate Service: Building Bridges
  • Buddhist Chaplaincy I
  • Compassionate Service: Wisdom and Method
  • Buddhist Ministry & Leadership: Building Spiritual Communities
  • Buddhist Chaplaincy II
  • Mindful Institutional Organization, Administration & Development
  • Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, and Contemplative Care as Service
  • Spiritual Leadership

THEOLOGY: minimum 12 credits, may include:

  • Buddhist Theology
  • Engaged Buddhism
  • Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion
  • History of Buddhist Philosophy: India and Tibet
  • Buddhist Rituals, Ethics, Services, and Ceremonies
  • THL xxx Comparative Religions
  • Buddhist & Western Approaches to Pastoral Care & Counseling
  • Colloquia in Applied Buddhist Theology
  • Final Comprehensive Paper
Last updated Sep 2017

About the School

Maitripa College is the first Tibetan Buddhist college in the pacific northwest, and was the host of the Dalai Lama Environmental Summit in May 2013. Maitripa College is based on the conviction that B ... Read More

Maitripa College is the first Tibetan Buddhist college in the pacific northwest, and was the host of the Dalai Lama Environmental Summit in May 2013. Maitripa College is based on the conviction that Buddhist thought and practice have significant contributions to make to American society and culture. Read less